Preaching Story: The Challenge of Acts

Are there specific challenges with preaching the narratives of Acts? I think so, but it’s a book I love to preach from.  Let me offer a few points to ponder:

1. Acts is not all action.  Every biblical narrative tends to lean heavily on dialogue as a key feature in the inspired telling of the story.  Ancient texts were often punctuated with the pause presented by means of speeches.  To see Acts in all its glory, it is vital to see how the speeches are not a pause in the action, often they are the action.  So let’s not skip Stephen’s great speech with a little summary statement in order to get to the stoning, let’s be sure to help listeners experience the power of his impressively targeted speech!

2. Acts is not mere history.  It isn’t uncommon to find folks who view the epistles as the source of our theology, but see Acts only as a record of what occurred in the early days.  Please don’t suggest such a notion in the presence of a Luke-Acts scholar!  Acts is absolutely theological, it is just that Luke was inspired to write his theology in the form of narrative with speeches, rather than discourse in letters.  Actually, I suppose Acts has the “discourse” feature of being addressed to someone – sort of an epistle with extended narratival content!

3. Acts is not all history.  Some elements of the early history of the church are unique.  The challenge for the preacher is to discern and then demonstrate the value of preaching non-normative history.  We don’t tend to be pressured by the problem of replacing a dead apostle.  We don’t need another Pentecost, whatever the hymn says.  I presume your church doesn’t typically experience an Ananias/Sapphira church discipline model.  I suspect the apostles aren’t still looking for a specific evidence of Gentile inclusion in the church, etc.  We have to prayerfully ponder how to preach the non-normative elements of Acts with relevance to our listeners.

4. Acts is all applicable.  So how do we preach Acts relevantly?  And how do we avoid using Acts labels for contemporary experiences that may or may not be the same thing?  How do we stir an excitement for the thrilling reality that is the church, without creating deep disenchantment with the myriad of ways in which our experience differs from theirs?

Acts is a phenomenal piece of inspired writing, and one I love to preach from, but it isn’t always easy.  Let’s be bold in deciding to preach Acts, and extremely sensitive in how we interpret and apply it for the maximum benefit of our listeners.  They need us to preach it, and to preach it well.

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